12 to 120


17 Sivan 5768
Erev Shabbos, Parashas Shelach
June 20, 2008

Dear Friends and Family,

This coming Shabbos we read the Torah portion Shelach, recalling the sin of the spies. These were the 12 men that Moshe sent to scout out the Land of Israel before entering. When they returned, their distorted and negative reports caused the b’nai Yisrael to despair. As a result of speaking and believing this slander about the land, Hashem decreed a 40 year delay before they could enter the Land.

Today we are witness to all that is good and special about living here and we have the ability, and perhaps the obligation, to tell our family, friends and neighbors abroad what those things are.

Nefesh B'Nefesh is again this year promoting their "12 to 12" project. They requested that every Oleh compose a list of 12 things we appreciate and love about living in Israel and email our message to 12 (or 120) friends abroad. Last year David and I sent out a letter called “12+1” (if you’d like it, let me know). Here are our 12 for this year:

1. The education-yes, you read correctly. The Jewish education here is excellent. Secular, too. Our graduates become Nobel Prize winners, develop companies that attract a disproportionate amount of foreign business investment and Israel is depended upon for the next great medical breakthrough. Educating children anywhere is difficult. Look in any bookstore in the states; there are shelves of guides to help both parent and child overcome obstacles and get the most out of their schooling. In what other place do Jewish parents have so many opportunities to educate their children al pi darko, according to their ways? Here, parents tell me they love that they can choose the school and educational system that most suits their child. They do struggle with the decisions, but they have a decision to make. (And notice, I did not even mention tuition.)

2. We are surrounded by enemies who want us wiped off the face of the earth, and the best thing is that we know exactly who, and often where, they are. Random acts of violence are rare. Terrorist attacks are devised and planned, but before they are executed, they are usually thwarted. Baruch Hashem.

3. Tourists are everywhere, crowding the alleyways and thoroughfares, littering and talking loudly in the streets. They fill up the restaurants, empty the shops, and give parnassa to the street cleaners. We wake up every morning in their once-in-a-lifetime destination.

4. The government of Israel wants us to be a nation like all other nations. Besrat Hashem it WILL be. --despite what we “see in the news,” we are witness to a Divine Plan that will end when we are deserving of a leadership that represents the highest of ethical standards. Those which emanate from our eternal constitution, the Torah. Then we will be the nation that all other nations want to be like.

5. The kids have to serve in the army. We recently had the zechus of having a Shabbat meal with 18, 19 and 20 year old chayalim, soldiers, from both observant and non-observant homes. They exhibited more character, maturity, focus, dedication and wisdom than any young person to whom I have spoken in my life. Our children would do well to have these middos surrounding them.

6. Little kids run around without any supervision. And most of them are very well behaved. They look after younger siblings, they scoot out to the makolet to get milk for breakfast in the morning, and teens don’t spend hours on cellphones because they are always with their friends.

7. The buses rule the roads. They roar around, twisting, zooming, making impossible turns. They take us anywhere and everywhere. Those standing, stumble as the bus careens, and someone catches them. Mothers give their babies over to “strangers” as they fold their strollers and walk away to pay the driver. Young girls get up and tell not so young women to take their seat. Men move next to other men so women can sit together; this is so that everyone’s dignity is preserved. Simply put, the passengers on any bus in Israel are sharing the ride of their life.

8. Not knowing the language well is an opportunity to make someone’s day. I often find myself waiting for a bus with an elderly woman who knows not a syllable of English but wants a little connection to another Jewish woman. I try my hardest to tell her, using the 50 or so words I know, what I can about my life. When she helps me with my Ivrit, she feels needed, it’s the best. I met an ancient wrinkled beauty from Iraq, a sweet toothy woman from Russia and a 6th generation Israeli and her 88 year old younger sister that way. Plus, I picked up a few new words in the process.

9. The best jobs and special deals are discovered through the good ‘ol boy network and that is hard to get into. To break in, you have to be--an olah. We help each other find jobs, tutors, movers, doctors, ulpans, lawyers. We find a bargain or or hit upon a good idea and we share it on our local anglo yahoogroups. We promote olah business on http://www.nbnbusiness.co.il/ ,give recommendations on http://israeleasy.blogspot.com/ and list resources with maps on http://israelataclick.com/ All in English. It’s a great club, and no secret handshake.

10. I love that there are no long thin lines in Israel. If you expect to be waited on first come first serve, you are mistaken. Once we got here we realized it was best just to get over it. My take on it is that we are like a family; it really is not rudeness. It’s a cultural thing--like no personal space. Because we are family, there is no “alone space,” either. People care enough to tell us how to dress, how take care of our kids, our health and our relationship with our spouse. And if one is ever in need of help, lo aleinu, the shoving stops and our family is right there to take care of us.

11. Yes, there are indeed giants here. Giants of Torah. And we have the opportunity to gaze upon them every day.

12. Finally, the only best thing about living in Israel is that we are home, where every Jew belongs, where our Loving Father longs for our return.

Well, those are our 12 for this year. You might not agree that all of these are good reasons to live here, but please, as a tikkun for the spies don’t say anything. Life in Israel, like anywhere has its trials. Within our trials lies the opportunity for our greatness. Doing mitzvot with joy, being kind and merciful to one another and judging every Jew favorably will end this exile, the most difficult trial of all. Then the best thing about living in Israel will be that all of YOU will get to come home soon.

Renee and David

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